Sat, Dec 08, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Paris shutters as more protests loom

GROWING DEMANDS:Nearly 280 high schools were disrupted as students joined the protests, calling for an end to testing overhauls and stricter college admissions

AFP, PARIS

Anti-riot police stand on the Pont Neuf in Toulouse, France, on Thursday as high-school students protest for a fourth day.

Photo: AFP

The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre museum and scores of shops on the Champs-Elysees are set to close, as authorities on Thursday warned of fresh violence this weekend during protests.

The government is scrambling to stave off another Saturday of burned cars and running street battles with police by “yellow vest” protesters furious over rising costs of living they blame on high taxes.

A French Ministry of the Interior official said that authorities were bracing for “significant violence” today, based on indications that protesters on the far right and far left are planning to converge on the capital.

Officials fear they could be joined by hooligans set on rioting and looting, as is widely thought to have been the case last weekend.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that 8,000 police would be deployed in Paris alongside a dozen armored vehicles — not used in urban areas since suburban youth riots in 2005 — for crowd control as part of “exceptional” measures to contain the risk of violence.

He also reiterated his appeal for calm, saying in a prime-time TV interview that the government was ready to consider “any measure that would allow us to boost spending power.”

Across the country, about 89,000 police are to be mobilized, up from 65,000 last weekend.

The “yellow vest” movement shows no sign of losing steam, despite a rollback of planned fuel tax hikes for next month.

Shops and businesses along and near the Champs-Elysees were told to keep their doors closed, protect exposed windows and remove outdoor furniture, according to police notices seen by reporters.

The move is likely to cost thousands of euros in lost revenue as tourists and locals stay clear for a second holiday weekend in a row.

The Garnier and Bastille opera houses have canceled performances today and the doors of major museums are to be shut.

Six Ligue 1 soccer games scheduled for today have been postponed.

The protests began on Nov. 17 in opposition to rising fuel taxes, but they have since expanded into a broad challenge to French President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-business agenda and style of governing.

The protesters, mainly from small-town and rural France, have broad public support, with an opinion poll this week showing that 72 percent of respondents backed the demonstrations.

The movement has spurred other protests, in particular students demanding an end to testing overhauls and stricter university entrance requirements.

Nearly 280 high schools were disrupted, 45 of which were blocked, in protests across France on Thursday, with more than 700 students detained by police, a ministry source said.

Dozens of people threw Molotov cocktails, torched trash cans and clashed with police outside schools in several cities.

Farmers have also called for demonstrations every day next week, while two truck driver unions are planning an indefinite sympathy strike from tomorrow night.

Yellow-vest blockades at fuel depots have caused shortages in Brittany, Normandy and southeast regions of France.

On Thursday, a yellow-vest representative, Benjamin Cauchy, called on Macron to meet a delegation of protesters yesterday to help defuse the situation.

“We’re asking him to meet us to negotiate on spending power, which is what underpins all this anger,” Cauchy said.

Macron is to speak about the issue “early next week,” Richard Ferrand, a senior lawmaker from Macron’s party, said late on Thursday, adding that Macron did not want to “pour oil on the fire” ahead of today’s protest.

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